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Maligned by politics and hysteria, as well as television and film, the Python is an extremely intelligent and passive animal that makes a great pet, providing you feed and care for it properly. Although Pythons are reputed to be one of the largest snakes at full growth, which can be as much as 20 feet in length, and exceed 200 pounds in weight; this potential is exaggerated as something that is common and to be expected, when it fact it is not. Such lengths are rare, unless a deliberate attempt to create a large Python was made through overfeeding; and this is almost always done in captivity.
In the wild, less than a few percent have the luxury of a prey rich environment that is free of predators that kill the Python long before it reaches such size. Many animals, especially cold blooded, can be overfed and as a result overgrown. The real “average” size for the Burmese Python ranges between eight and twelve feet, depending on a variety of issues in its housing and care. The larger examples beyond this are less than 10% category.
Too often, this size is perceived by novices to such animals, as having a three dimensional impression. That is, we think the animal is eight feet HIGH, eight feed WIDE and eight feet DEEP. When curled up, however, it is only equivalent to that of a small to medium size dog.
The fact is, in the domestic environment, a properly fed and cared for Python can easily be kept to a reasonable size, no larger than a medium dog.
They can be easily handled, carried and moved without trouble, once a little experience and trust is developed both ways. The key is to feed modest amounts on a predictable schedule, while keeping the animal in an environment that allows it to choose its heating source (warm belly or overhead heat), and to not allow the heat to get too tropical. Temperature is a key to growth control that no one seems to appreciate the importance of, and it is not at the expense of any health issues for the animal.
Keeping a Python for 25 years that never exceeds 11 feet in length and 55 to 60 pounds in weight is typical. Another example of this author is 9 feet and 22 years of age, that weighs only 35 pounds. Both are very happy and healthy.
How much food, and when?
When they are yearlings, they should eat more often, such as every seven (7) days, beginning with small mice and staying with rodents bought in size based on the size of the snake’s head. After two years or so, their schedule should be stretched out to about ten (10) days, using the same formula of food size and frequency.
After they’ve outgrown mice.
Over the next three or four years, this will move through the rat size you choose, beginning with small, and progressing up through medium, large and jumbo if such a breakdown is available at your local pet store.
It is better to feed your snake additional rodents of a specific size, rather than graduate the animal to a single serving of a larger animal, such as a rabbit, which is not good. Any bird, especially chickens, is not good for many reasons. The size of the food should be no larger than three (3x) the size of the snake’s head. As they mature to adult, the single feeding of this size may now double to two animals of this proportion. If on occasion you are forced to settle for only twice (2x) the size of the snake’s head, then you can double up on those in lieu of a single size that is larger. The change from mice to rats, should be made when the snake has reached the point (usually two years) where it takes two (2) mice to be an adequate meal. Then move on to a small rat, which would be of similar body weight as the two mice.
Nutrition between the mouse and rat is different as well, which the adolescent Python begins to require.